Proposed primary school on Battlebridge Lane: Our submissions

Ground plan of new Battlebridge school

Ground plan of the proposed new school

Council planners are considering a proposal to build a primary school on the recreation ground at Battlebridge Lane.

Reigate and Banstead Borough Council (RBBC) is being consulted and the RBBC Planning Committee will debate this at its 27 November meeting.

The decision whether or not to allow the school to be built will be made by Surrey County Council (SCC), possibly in December.

You can read more about it, including links to the plans and how to send your views to SCC, here.

As ward councillors for this area, we have been campaigning for a new school for several years – and for a proper, transparent process for choosing the site.  We are disappointed that the site selection has been clouded in controversy and it’s hard to have confidence that it was done properly.

Cllrs Truscott and Finch submitted our views to the planning officers at Reigate & Banstead and Surrey. You can download our submissions here:

Submission to Reigate & Banstead

Submission to Surrey

Green Belt

As this is a Green Belt site, very special circumstances have to be demonstrated in order for development to be allowed.  The applicant advances two very special circumstances: educational need and the absence of alternative sites.

Educational need is not controversial. There is an urgent need for more primary school places in Redhill.  The building of Park 25 and Water Colour has exacerbated the pressure caused by rising birth rates and the influx of families from outside the Borough. The pressure will only grow and the County forecasts it will need at least five new forms of entry by 2020.

The claim that there is an absence of alternative sites is controversial however. We have been waiting well over a year for details of how the site was chosen – the planning application documents however throw up as many questions as they answer.

Site selection process

The planning application includes a survey of alternative sites, in which 19 sites have been scored against 11 criteria.  Five achieved the top score, but four of those were discounted, leaving Battlebridge Lane as the final choice.

However some of the rankings were inconsistent and questionable. In our view, consistency in the scoring would have led to the St Nicholas school site getting a higher score than Battlebridge Lane, for example. You can read more about this in our submission.

Even more concerning, the planning document suggests that some sites were only added after a public meeting in May 2013 (“A number of sites included were those raised during the publication process”).   As four sites on the list had not been included in previous lists we had been shown, we can only assume that these four (Quarryside, Crown Buildings, St Nicholas and Longmead) were only assessed after plans to build the school at Battlebridge had been drawn up and presented to prospective parents. The four new sites include two of the strongest contenders.

Consultation

There was a consultation event in May – but residents were only consulted on the design of a school on the Battlebridge site, with no opportunity to comment on the choice of site. That consultation was far from supportive of the application, with 35 people in favour of the scheme, 52 against, and 19 in favour but with reservations.

Other issues we raise in our submissions include:

Traffic and Transport

We raised various concerns about traffic and transport, including:

  • This site is located adjacent to two busy staggered road junctions, yet the traffic survey carried out to measure its impact did not include all the nearby junctions
  • The traffic survey was conducted while the nearby Royal Alexandra and Albert School was closed for the summer holidays so did not reflect term-time traffic levels.
  • The only access to this school will be close to the only entrance into Wells Place industrial estate and the only HGV route into Holmethorpe Industrial Estate. This area is already heavily congested in the morning rush hour.
  • As with almost every school development, this school doesn’t have sufficient space for parents to drop off and pick up pupils. There are not enough parking spaces for all of the staff expected to drive to school, so they will be competing for parking space with those parents whose children do not walk, cycle or use public transport to school.
  • In the public consultation, 27% in favour of access and parking arrangements compared with 66% against and 13% who were in favour but had reservations.

Air pollution

This site is next to a busy ‘A’ road and industrial site access which has HGVs and high level of traffic so children will be exposed to more pollution than if the school were sited in a residential area. There is increasing evidence of the impacts of traffic pollution on health. For example the World Health Organisation declared air pollution as carcinogenic. (Ref. http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/10/17/us-cancer-pollution-idUSBRE99G0BB20131017). Air pollution has also been linked to other lung problems, heart failure and premature death. In the UK alone 29,000 people every year die because of air pollution

Urgent decision

Redhill’s new primary school is needed urgently – but that should not preclude proper consideration of the serious issues involved.  It’s urgent because Surrey County Council has taken so long to reach this point, though the need for a new school has been obvious ever since the Water Colour and Park 25 developments were permitted. Had the County not sat on its hands for five years, the school could have been built by now.

Cllr Bryn Truscott says, “It is hard to escape the conclusion that for whatever reason, Surrey County Council is determined to build this school at Battlebridge. The ‘site ranking’ process seems like an empty box-ticking exercise and the whole thing feels like a done deal.”

“We owe it to current and future residents to make sure the school is not built on an unsuitable site because of the County’s own failures and resulting time pressure.”

 

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